Discrepancies are one of the biggest headaches in the digital advertising ecosystem, but they are also something everyone deals with. As the industry has matured, standards have been created and adopted, vendor offerings and tracking have become more consistent, the internet has become faster and more stable and as a result the difference between two parties’ counts has decreased to an acceptable percentage (most of the time). Then, new technology is introduced that stirs the water and discrepancy percentages can become all over the place again. The mobile ecosystem has introduced an array of devices, operation systems and versions, applications and even new behaviors to the mix. Not to mention the inconsistency of a user’s connection when moving around in the physical world.
All these new variables can be quite intimidating. How would you ever know where to start investigating a mobile discrepancy? Luckily it is not as scary as it sounds. While it is true there are additional variables to take into consideration, the most common root causes still boil down to the same ones the industry has experienced for years with desktop campaigns: human error, when ad calls are made in the ad serving sequence, and differences in vendors reporting and targeting offerings.
- Human Error - The more manual steps needed to launch a campaign, the more room there is for errors to occur which may result in discrepancies. With new vendors and products plus the use of code based HTML5 creatives with many assets instead of a tidy flash file, the mobile marketplace isn’t as automated as the desktop marketplace.
- Ad Serving Sequencing - Just like with desktop campaigns there are often multiple parties tracking a single campaign. Typically all of the ad calls don’t fire at once, even if they are all tracking the same thing. Latency and short session time common in mobile make the difference in ad calls a more significant variable than on desktop.
- Reporting - Every vendor has their secret sauce to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Sometimes it has to do with the metrics they measure or how they validate traffic. As the mobile marketplace matures reporting offerings will be become more consistent, but until then it is important to make sure you are comparing the same things across reports.
- Targeting - Similar to reporting targeting offerings will differ in their features and capabilities. While this is true for desktop targeting as well there is more variability in mobile such as multiple ways to identify location.
IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence’s new document Mobile Discrepancies: Exploring common root causes
gives more detailed explanations of common discrepancy causes for mobile campaigns. Providing ample time to test and QA campaigns before launch is the most important thing you can do to avoid large discrepancies. It is important to not just test that the creative works, but also confirm all parties are tracking the same thing, especially when working with new partners. If not, it doesn’t matter what device you are running the campaign on, you are comparing apples to oranges. When these differences are discovered it is important to share that knowledge and work together to solve the problem. The more discrepancies causes are understood, the more they can be avoided fostering more trust in the mobile marketplace.
About the Author
Sabrina Alimi is the Senior Marketing Manager of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, where she has a focus on mobile ad operations and key mobile initiatives such as HTML best practices, mobile creative guidelines, discrepancies, and the future of the cookie. In addition, Sabrina leads the IAB’s Local Committee, exploring the opportunities that the use of location unlocks for mobile advertising. Prior to the IAB, Sabrina worked at Microsoft Advertising on the Atlas Media Console where she became a product expert providing technical support to clients and managing bug escalations. She can be reached on Twitter @SabrinaAlimi.